The Color Purple: Consolation in Female Bonding

Copyright: Martina Diehl June 2012 The Color Purple: Consolation in Female Bonding Celie’s road to trusting and loving herself Abstract This essay is about the love affair in The Color Purple, a novel by Alice Walker in which, thoughts on racism, incest, rape, love and family affairs are provoked. The reader learns about these subjects through the letters that Celie, an uneducated black woman, writes to God and through the letters that her sister Nettie and Celie write to each other.
I would like to discuss how Walker raises the issue of love between females, which involves trust and understanding, two aspects that the men in the novel don’t possess. The reader witnesses how the women are being oppressed and abused in this men’s world, Celie and Shug find comfort and security in each other and then become less afraid to stand up for themselves. I will touch on the comparisons of the awareness hierarchy in Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison and The Color Purple.
Furthermore, Walker guides us through the rise of this sisterhood and female love affair, which helps them find the otherness in God, the colour purple. This novel tells us of sexual racism, incest, oppression and abuse which leads to what walker refers to as womanist, which is to feminism what the colour purple is to lavender (Abbandato 1113). The text implies that Celie and Shug find their love for each other through traumatic events where African-American females are lowest in rank, causing sexual racism, rape and abuse by the dominating male. The Beginning of Celie and Shug Nature said, you two folks, hook up, cause you a good example of how it sposed to go. ”(105) Celie has been abused by men all her life and still she does what they tell her to out of fear until she meets Shug, who stands up for Celie and shows her many beautiful things life carries with her. ‘Pa’ has abused Celie and she has become pregnant, twice. Incest and abuse seems to be the life she knows and therefore she is afraid of all men including God because she fears getting beaten and doing something wrong. She is not afraid to write to God because she thinks that He, “as a white male istener, is ill-equipped to hear what she has to say” (Tucker 82), and because her stepfather has made her afraid to tell anybody else, as is shown in the first line of the novel: “You better not tell nobody but God. It’d kill your mammy. ” (3) She has always feared men, and when she sees Shug Avery for the first time she is amazed to see that a female has power over Mr. ____. At first Shug treats Celie as a servant because Shug is supposed to be with Mr. ____ and not Celie. She finally accepts this is reality and finds out that the man she used to know as Albert is not the same anymore.

Celie’s traumatic sexual events and incest may have caused Celie to dive into this female love affair with Shug. Shug hears Celie’s stories about the raping, and how Celie lets Albert take advantage of her because abuse is the life she has always lead, the life she is used to. Shug helps Celie see the beautiful things that God has given them. Walker uses the letters Celie writes as a political statement, reminding the reader that Celie can only write her feelings about herself and objective information in writing. She continues to do this in the novel even though she can tell her feelings to Shug.
She still feels the need to write to God or Nettie (Christian 424). When talking to Shug, Celie finds “lesbian continuum” (Abbandato: 1108): the concept of love, friendship and sisterly solidarity, in a world where heterosexuality is compulsory and women are supposed to be no more than objects to men, they are “the second sex” (Chaber 213), women with no rights or power. A fight against society Walker shows the reader how black woman are trying to rise above the conditions of their society. Sofia and Shug are the two characters that fight against masculine domination.
In Song of Solomon, Morrison focuses on the oppression of women and ridicules the men, showing the reader what men consider to be right while emphasizing the abuse of women. These two novels are set in the same time period and both take place in the South of the United States, both novels show the sexual and racial abuse of women as a second sex between 1910 and 1963. Women in white society were gaining power while black women still had none. During the twentieth century black women began to travel more and saw more of the world and therefore this change in dominance in society.
They would no longer tolerate the power that men had over them. The oppression that Celie was part of. Celie does not write of her husband by name, he is part of the system joining God and her father in “an unholy trinity of power than displaces her identity. ” (Abbandato 1111) Fear of standing up to the dominant sex Celie is afraid to stand up to her husband. She does not want to get a beating and is traumatised by the events she went through before she left home to be with Mr. ____. Her mother passed away and she is left with a stepfather who raped her and whom she thought dumped her babies in the woods.
Celie is continually silenced by her stepfather and Mr. ____ and has no choice in the marriage. She is only an object to the men and is required work around the house and care for them. She does not like to write down or talk about the names of the men who she knows, she prefers to call them Mr. ___ or ‘Pa’ and refers to them as ‘Him’, like God, these men have more power over her than she has over herself. (Tucker 84) She does not know the man who she calls ‘Pa’ is not her real father until much later when she hears the story from Nettie.
Her children whom she thought were gone are with Nettie and Celie learns that white people hanged her father. Comparing Walker to Morrison Walker addresses the intersectionality of black women in a white society. As she guides the reader through the novel, the reader discovers the class differences in South America. Not only are white women less powerful than white men, beneath that are the African Americans, in which the African American female seems to be the lowest class. Toni Morrison presents the reader with a similar view where the ‘coloured’ people are in search of the self, trying to fight for a better future.
Both novels show the oppression within society that bellows for the African Americans. Walker seems to concentrate on showing the reader all aspects of oppression by highlighting Celie’s sexual preference, and the sexism and racism which is present not only between a white and black society but also within the African American society. Walker lets the reader find the different levels of discrimination within classes of society. In The Color Purple as well as in Song of Solomon, these different levels of discrimination arise. Macon Dead and the arrator in Song of Solomon show the reader these different levels of discrimination in the following excerpt: ““Why can’t you dress like a woman? ” He was standing by the stove. What’s that sailor’s cap doing on your head? Don’t you have stockings? What are you trying to make me look like in this town? ” He trembled with the thought of the white men in the bank – the men who helped him buy mortgage houses – discovering that this raggedy bootlegger was his sister. ” (20) Macon Dead dreads what the white men might think of his family, as they are impressed with this ‘Negro’ who handles business so well.
Besides that, Ruth dresses in a masculine manner, which could be argued is a way of proving that she is not lower in class than the men around her. Here in this excerpt, she might be compared to Shug Avery in some respect; she provokes the men around her to show her meaning in society. Throughout both texts a lot of similarities can be found in regard to womanism. The women in the texts tend to be either dependent on their husbands on independent women with principles and an ideal to grow, and be accepted as equals in society.
Walker critiques the black community here by insinuating that women have the right to take responsibility for themselves (Christian 424). Celie’s trust and distrust Celie, as apposed to Shug, begins hardly any particular views of her own, and only does what she thinks is right: caring for her husband. She holds onto the morals she has learnt from her stepfather, although she realises that her life could be less abusive, she does not seem to feel that she has the power to change that. She thinks that her stepfather, who raped her, has killed her children and therefore she does not trust him.
The incest that happens allows distrust towards her family, and so she turns to God is not allowed to tell anybody about the rape and abuse. Celie struggles through life as an uneducated young woman who seems to have a great responsibility of looking after an entire household, she is at the bottom of the chain in her family. When Celie meets Shug Avery she seems fascinated by this black woman who is able to stand up to Mr. ____, she even calls him by his first name. Shug is surprised with the way in which Celie lets herself be treated, and the way Albert has changed.
Shug finds herself interested in Celie’s life, and Celie finally finds somebody whom she will trust to tell her stories to. By putting her trust in Shug, does not Celie again depend on somebody, as she has done all along? She depends on her sister to write about what life is like, she depends on the ways she is treated and the consolation she finds in writing to God. She does not seem to be able to survive without a husband for who would care for her? Now Shug is willing to care for her, by letting Celie becoming dependent yet again.
Nevertheless, due to the influence of Shug, Celie is able to trust herself again (Christian 424). A love affair: Celie and Shug The love between Celie and Shug is found through the traumatic events that especially Celie suffers from, and her previous inability to stand up for herself and to speak, as she would only write to God. African-American females in The Color Purple suffer from their dependence on a husband and being low in the hierarchical setting of the southern states. Celie finds trust and consolation in being able to speak to Shug, who does not abuse her, but merely touches her.
This trust turns into a love affair, a lesbian continuum. They find a connection in being on this low hierarchical scale and both find love, which they had been missing. Celie learns to love herself, to trust her own thoughts gains trust in herself and in Shug, she learns to love herself because Shug loves her. Arguably, because she trusts herself she is able to speak up for herself and know when she does not want something; Albert no longer abuses her because of Shug’s resentment towards Albert’s change.
Celie earns a place in society by leaving her place as the uneducated woman who is part of ‘the second sex’ and becoming less dependent on the dominant male force within the African-American society. Walker shows that through trusting and loving the self, barriers can be broken and any type of love is possible. Primary Literature Walker, Alice. The Color Purple. Great Britain: The Women’s Press, 1983. Print. Morrison, Toni. Song of Solomon. USA: Plume Fiction. 1987. reprint. On racism in the African-American society.
Secondary Literature Abbandonato, Linda. “A view from ‘Elsewhere’: Subversive Sexuality and the rewriting of the heroine’s story in The Color Purple”. PMLA vol. 106. (1991): P. 1106-1115 Christian, Barbara T. “We are the ones that we have been waiting for”: Political content in Alice’s Walker’s novels. Women’s studies International Forum vol. 9. (1986): P. 421-426 Idem Tucker, Lindsey. “Alice Walker’s The Color Purple”: Emergent Woman, Emergent Text. Black American literature forum. (1988): Vol. 22. P. 81-95

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